Monday, August 30, 2010

Climbing the Reiki Mountain

It was only two months ago that we were in Japan, visited Kyoto, and climbed to the Temple on Mount Kurama. Mikao Usui had a vision there, which started a chain of events that led to many people, perhaps millions of people, being attuned to a spiritual energy and learning a method of healing.

It doesn't seem yet so long ago, nor in truth so far away (though the flight seemed to go on and on and on at the time). We live under the same sun (even if day here is night there) and the same energy flows through us all. Today I saw another "climb" - and it taught me something - that Kurama isn't only in Japan. The spirit surrounds us wherever we are.

Philip is a man who is living the last days of his life, i will not say dying because he does not think of himself in that way. He has a rapidly spreading cancer which has caused an intermittent internal blockage - the medical details really do not matter. He has wanted to receive artificial intravenous feeding, and we have followed his requests. In hospice my mantra is to empower the patient and follow their wishes as much as possible.

On the television it said today was going to be a sunny day, for me, that reminded me of my day climbing the steps of Kurama, but for Philip, it made him want to go outside. He has not been in the sun since he entered the hospital. He wanted to walk around his room, and walk to his wheelchair, and as he said, "I can only do that if someone helps me."

The effort that it took him to walk around his room, even with his walker, even with help, exceeded the effort it took for me to climb Kurama. More exhausting than the travel, the security, the flight, the bullet train, and finally the half day climb up the steps.

But today he made "the climb." Walked to his wheelchair, and a volunteer took him outside, and he sat in the sun for 15 minutes. I asked him how he felt, and he said simply, "good." He was focused on living - just for today.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Reiki and a Hospice Team

Every Hospice Team every week has a brief ceremony that memorializes the patients who passed away that week. Each name is read, and discussions often ensue on bereavement needs. We try to remember and learn from each and every person who entrusted us with their care.

Each week, we try to add something that makes the moment meaningful, sometimes a music therapist plays a song, sometimes a candle is lit, sometimes the chaplain says a prayer.

This week, one of our chaplains who is also a Reiki practitioner asked if she could do a different sort of reading. We each closed our eyes, and with her voice asking for energy to be open us, there was a feeling of a Reiki shower, and she read a form of a "Boddhisatva Vow"

"May I be a guard for those who are protectorless,
A guide for those who journey on the road,
For those who wish to go across the water
May I be a boat, a raft, a bridge.

May I be an isle for those who yearn for landfall
And a lamp for those who long for light
For those who need a resting place.

May I be the wishing jewel, the vase of plenty,
A word of power, and the supreme remedy
May I be the trees of miracles
And for every being, the abundant cow.

Like the great earth and the other elements
Enduring as the sky itself endures,
For the boundless multitude of living beings.
May I be the ground and vessel of their life.

Thus for every single thing that lives.
In number like the boundless reaches of the sky
May I be their sustenance and nourishment,
Until they pass beyond the bounds of suffering."

There is in hospice a very special bond, that has to do with the honor of being committed to relieving suffering in sentient beings. So often in healthcare, there exists a sense of loss and futility. In hospice there exists a sense of Purpose.

We can nurture people who we can no longer nourish, heal people who can no longer be cured, and care for people until they transition "beyond the bounds of suffering."

This brief ceremony is always very meaningful, and thank you to our chaplains and music therapists who add a special sense of spirit every week.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Near end of life

We do everything we possibly can that is evidence based, but we face challenges every day that exceed the evidence based tools we have.

As we talk openly about the challenges we face, and more importantly that our patients, and their loved ones face, we seek to understand what has happened in circumstances outside our ordinary experiences.

More and more physicians and nurses come to me and offer stories of their own experiences, things they are not quite sure that they believe, stories that they yet are fearful of sharing.

Sarah is a nurse caring for patients near the end of life. Last week one of her patients made transition. The next day she was walking in the hospital and thought that she saw the patient, and worse yet, that the patient was not wearing his oxygen.

How could this be? And as she hurried over to the patient, to do something, to replace the oxygen, she realized, first, that this was a different person, and second that the patient she was caring for had passed away the day before.

What had happened? She had been truly touched by this patient. For her, the spirit of the patient was still present. She returned to her unit, and found out that the patient was still in the morgue, no one had notified his family, the phone number on the medical record was incorrect. And yet another nurse remembered a niece having provided a different phone number. Sarah called the niece. The family was able to pick up the patient's remains, and, perhaps more importantly, Sarah and another nurse recalled a conversation with the patient, about wishes and instructions. And the family was moved by this, and everyone felt a sense of peace and closure.

"What happened," Sarah asked? Was this Reiki energy? And more importantly, how do we account for this? And perhaps more importantly, is it OK to talk about such experiences, or do we need to hold them in, and deny them. How often do such things happen? And does it reduce stress and burn out on nurses and doctors to talk about their own feelings about what happens near death?

A month ago, a nurse reported caring for a patient who arrived in tremendous pain. He had no family. He had suffered through a long hospitalization, and surgery that, however well intentioned had left him in a grotesque shape, and in a great deal of pain. The care team used medication, but as well, the staff sat with the patient, sometimes held his hand, sometimes just in presence, sometimes, with the music therapist, in song, sometimes with the pastor in prayer.

The grimaces left his face, his breathing became even and unlabored, and he lived peacefully for several days, and finally made transition. He did not die in pain and he did not die alone.

The day after he had died one of the nurses was walking down the hall. She heard a voice, "psst." But no one was there. "Psst, i'm over here." She walked back to the room where this patient had been living, and felt his presence, "its OK, you took away my pain, its OK now." She felt his presence, and then he was gone.

What has happened?

Is this OK to talk about?

Are these nurses "crazy" as they sometimes fear?

Is this Reiki?

When we provide Reiki near transition for treatment, does it rise to the level of attunement?

Does it hurt and cause stress to hold things in? Are we better off for talking about what we experience? Are we better off for sharing?

What do you think?

For those doctors and nurses caring for patients living the last days of their lives, thank you. Thank you for giving compassion, for caring when you cannot cure. For those who have shared experiences, talked about the perceptions and stresses, thank you. I find these days that more doctors and nurses find it "OK" to talk about their experiences.

I hope that sharing makes each day a little easier, reduces the stress, and allows you to continue this important work. Practicing health care with the best evidence based practices available to us, and at the same time, being open to human spirituality, seems a path worth pursuing.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Reiki and the Plastic Mask

I work on a Hospice in patient unit, and every day know we have taken to making rounds as a Team. We see about 100 new patients a month on this unit, and we are a symptom management and stabilization unit. While often, patients come to us "to die," many patients come for pain stabilization, and some that come to die ......well ......don't do what is expected.

There is a wonderful book, written by the late Art Buchwald, "Too Soon to Say Goodbye." Buchwald refused dialysis and was told that he had a week or less to live. He enrolled in hospice, lived almost a year, and wrote this book.

At one point he had a vision, he was standing in line at the airport waiting for a flight to heaven, when a loudspeaker voice said, "Because of the inclement weather, today's flight to heaven has been canceled. You can come back tomorrow and we'll put you on standby."

Many times we see patients with numbers that suggest they "should" die - but they don't. The creatinine is too high and they need dialysis, they refuse; the cancer is everywhere, there is nothing else to do; the blood gases won't support life; the CD 4 count is too low. Whatever it is, conventionally, we often treat numbers, and we are not correct 100% of the time. Sometimes, the flight to heaven is delayed and people are put on "standby."

This week we were making rounds and I came upon a man in a plastic mask. It was Bi-Pap, which is a device that helps people breathe, it is strapped tightly around their faces, and forces air and oxygen under pressure into the lungs. It is a step between a respirator, and well, breathing on one's own.

If a device like this is used on a temporary basis, let's say as someone recovers from pneumonia, or on a limited basis, let's say at night for folks with sleep apnea. It can be life saving. For others, as hours lead to days lead to weeks, it can be a sort of prison, just like a respirator.

In this case, I felt that with the Team present we could try taking the plastic mask off for a short period of time, and replace it if needed. We were right there, and as well, it would give us a chance to talk with the patient, with it on he could not hear us or speak to us. With the mask off he started to talk, and we started to listen. The patient was a high level professional, very bright, very much understood what he faced.

We negotiated. He hated the mask, but wasn't ready to give up on it, so being a Hospice, we empowered him to make decisions. He would wear it sometimes and not other times. "What if?" "I am ready to go," he said, "but I don't want to suffer or be gasping for air." "We can give you medication to prevent pain."

After half an hour of talking (he was on nasal oxygen only), one thing became obvious. The dire prediction by the lung specialists had not come to pass, and one of my nurses showing me "the numbers" asked "how can this be?" As with Art Buchwald, sometimes, the numbers don't tell the whole story.

The patient looked at us, and thanked us. He was at the least, now "in control" of some things. He was able to talk and be heard, people cared what he had to say. And here is what he added, "you are the first ones to talk with me about life and death. I'd been in the hospital a long time and no one talked about it. I think for doctors and nurses to talk about death, they need to face the idea of mortality, and of their own eventual mortality, and they have trouble doing that."

When I was learning Reiki, with my first master teacher Robin Hannon, I had a vision of being in a place of complete equaniminty. In Reiki terms we called it "Upekkha." Robin drew a picture of my vision, a tree with the leaves falling off, but coming through the tree an incredible light. Prior to learning Reiki, I had perceived this light, in 30 years of helping people nearing transition (or what we often call death).

Rarely we find something treatable, something which everyone else has missed (these are wonderful moments), often we relieve pain and suffering, and often we are just present in a compassionate way to share the moment, caring when we cannot cure.

We learn that sometimes, the creator of the universe sends a storm that forces the plane to heaven to be delayed, that we neither control nor know exact moments. But that the journey does not need to be faced with fear.

I think most people working in Hospice understand this, I think Reiki training helps us focus and share the moments. In thanks to those co workers who share the moments, and in thanks to those patients who continue to teach us, as long as we are open to learn.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Reiki and the Craniosacral Reflex

This past weekend I was sharing with friends, and was reminded of the importance of the incredible volume of work on Craniosacral therapy. The first portion of Hugh Milne's incredible book, "The Heart of Listening: A Visionary approach to Craniosacral work" presents interesting counterpoint to what we are doing in Reiki.

Imagine a series of bodily reflexes that motion of the eyes, or portions of the head or jaw, to the whole torse, down to the feet. Imagine a reflex wave that can be quantified. Imagine that such a wave follows the meridians discussed in bio-field healing. Imagine further, that Reiki training may be permitting the Reiki practitioner to "perceive" somehow, this wave.

To imagine this further, my recommendation for the moment is to find a copy of Hugh Milne's book, and to read the early sections. This book resonated for me.

In teaching, explaining or talking about Reiki, there is another question for which I do not have the answer. This past week, I gave a session on Simple Touch and Compassionate Presence for a group of employees at a nursing home. For many reasons, I was speaking about the simplest aspects of Reiki - and encouraging caregivers to clear their own minds of haste, anger or worry prior to approaching another person; to be certain they did not startle the other person, and to simply use a light tough of the hands to the person's hands to be calming, nothing "invasive," not "massage" and certainly not even a full "level 1" Reiki. This audience was a little sceptical even of techniques that border on main stream, and I decided to do a simple demonstration with two quite skeptical volunteers.

With their permission I performed a simple Reiju on each of them. In both cases they were surprised at the amount of heat that was generated, I had not physically touched either of them, nor intended a "Reiki level."

And one of them said,"my hands became really hot." And quickly someone in the front row said, "that's not possible." And the volunteer asked if she could touch that person's hands, and with permission did - she said, "how do you do that, her hands are really hot."

Well, in truth, we know in Reiki what we do, and we have "constructs" for what has occurred, but as yet, we do not truly know "for sure," nor perhaps does it really matter. What really matters is the intention of compassion.

In doing Reiki though, I have not really felt that I was becoming more "powerful" or that my "vibrations were faster" - I can feel the "heat" and I can transmit that, but it is more for me a sense of being a simple channel, a "catalyst" if you will, not really more powerful and not really a part of the healing itself. I don't believe that I am doing the healing.

And in convincing oneself that one is raising one's own "power," or making one's soul somehow more "advanced," I sometimes fear that we miss a part of the pathway to healing.

And to me there is an aspect of meditation in performing self Reiki, or Reiki on someone else, a connection with the world around.

And here is what Hugh Milne wrote of meditation: "medication is not concentration. It is not prayer, contemplation, hypnosis, or problem-solving. Meditation is the fine art of being here now; of holding an empty sacred space, mind shut down (because your mind is not you, consciousness is you). This is Kensho: the awareness that consciousness is the thing to focus on, not mind. Mind is made up of thoughts, feelings, and sensations; consciousness is the ground from which the mind springs. Consciousness has no components. Meditation is the art of being at one with yourself, your surrounding, and the world."

From this quiet sacred space within, one "listens" best, and perceives more. With no vibration, no motion, no power - simply with being and intention, one changes the world that one is a part of and radiates healing and compassion.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Takata's Usui

Since returning from Japan, I have been meditating on Takata's Usui. The familiar story of the Christian man who came to America, and was at the University of Chicago, and finally returned to Japan, to Kurama Yama, and achieved a form of enlightenment with Reiki.

The story, dear to so many for so long, debunked, in favor of the "historic Usui." But what of Takata's Usui? What was the point she was trying to teach.

I have just read Amy Rowland's newest book, "The Complete Book of Traditional Reiki" that includes both stories, and re read Virginia Samdahl's biography written by Barbara Lugenbeel. The story that Samdahl tells is slightly at variance to the story that Amy Rowland learned from her beloved teacher Beth Gray, so like the story told by Fran Brown and Helen Haberly.

But let us look at Takata's Usui for just a moment, not the historic person by any means, but the person Takata Sensei wanted us to know about. What was she trying to say to us?

Here is an analytic summary:

Takata's Usui, taught to an American audience was Christian, and although Japanese, had lived in the United States for some time - in some ways, he had become like many of those she was writing for, someone they could identify with. And he was seeking something, he was seeking "to heal."

Finally, unable to find the pathway to heal within Christian America, Usui returned to Japan. And he asked Buddhist monks, "do you believe that Buddha could do these things." And they answered, "we are a church, we are more concerned with the spiritual."

And so Takata's Christian Usui, coming back from the US, looked within Buddhism, not to be a Buddhist or to follow the Buddhist path but to find within Buddhism the lost secret of healing.

He was not seeking a religion, he was seeking a way to heal.

Takata's Usui was pointing the way for American's to see a pathway for themselves. The compassion and healing that were within Buddhism, but not the religion itself, simply the path to heal.

Seen in this way, Takata's Usui still speaks to us today, still has a value, the story, though lacking historic fact, gives a message from Takata Sensei.

I see people trying to go beyond Reiki. Seeking channeling and projection out of body of consciousness. And these things can be so easy yet so difficult. Here's an interesting fact, Virginia Samdahl was, prior to meeting Mrs Takata one of the most famous channelers of her time. She was a pyschic of considerable fame. Beth Gray also had fame in this area. What drew them to Reiki? A simple artform, meant simply to heal?

Here is what I have found. In trying to teach the arts where people "go beyond Reiki," the driving force that gives the capacity is compassion shown others. It all comes together. It is when we give compassion that we change ourselves, change our own substrate, raise our own potential as individuals and as a human race.

And so Reiki is the "Secret Method to invite Happiness" - it is the way to grow our own potential, to go beyond what we thought we were - not simply by raising our vibrational level, but by using a very simple method that passes compassion to others, the secret of "healing" that is common to all religions, but is not itself a religion.

We continue to seek the Mikao Usui who lived, but we should not forget the Usui that Takata taught us.